Do This Right

There is a tension I’ve observed lately between two opposing groups of people who are very opinionated about what I should do; and by “I”, I mean everyone in my age group. I have been encouraged many times over the past two years (and occassionally before I entered college) to “GO CHANGE THE WORLD.” Which sounds great until I leave the auditorium or classroom and notice that THE WORLD is rather larger than I had imagined while caught up in the inspirational fervor of my well-meaning exhorter. Others, recently, have been encouraging me to shrink my horizons, as it were, in an apparent attempt to pre-discourage me, saving my inevitable failure the trouble.

The thing is, no one ever tells me, personally, that I can or should change the world. It appears that the people who harbor these ambitions for my generation look out over these groups of us “young people,” as they like to address us, and see us as this tumbling wad of excitement and vigor and optimism about life in general, about college and our careers and also about the people around us and how awesome they are. And that’s what we are- at least as long as we’re sitting there, all facing this person, until we file out the door and we’re mostly just 1000 individuals moving about at will and trying to live our own lives. And we get alone, and fear creeps up on us, and we ask someone older for advice about how to really do this thing, and they say, don’t worry about it;  i didn’t.

When we think about people who actually have CHANGED THE WORLD we usually think of organizers: civil rights leaders, presidents, founders of charities. But we can’t all be those people, and we can’t even all join their organizations. So I want to talk about solidarity, but not in the sense that we all proclaim fidelity to a particular cause or whatever. Too often the people who do join things like the civil rights movement actually do change the world, and then they’re done; then they go off and get old and tell stories of their own glory days. I want to talk about solidarity as a shared commitment to excellence. A commitment to becoming great people who do great things with great love but who also do small things with great love. A commitment to doing all things so well that we become the example. In terms borrowed from one of my classes, it is an ethic of being. It appropriates the good and rejects the bad in what our parents taught us was the norm and it raises the standards; it refuses to become either a couch potato or a workaholic or a guilt-driven overachiever or a pleasure seeker.

Every generation has to critique the previous one, the one that raised it, especially once the previous one starts critiquing it. A lot of people older than us seem to think our generation won’t do much, including grow up, pointing to the number of 25-40+ year old people who still live with their parents. But when they call us irresponsible, there’s a point where we have to say, you made us this way. And then we have to acknowledge that and move on and take responsibility for becoming people who are different from our parents’ generation- people who actually commit to marriage, who give sacrificially to those in need, who reject and subvert the consumerism they expect us to swallow. May our generation find solidarity in fulfilling our God-given potential as individual people with an incredible capacity for love, strength, courage, sacrifice, and excellence. May we help others do the same.

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1 Comment

  1. Dearest Lyndsey,

    You must post more often.

    Love always,

    Minh

    Reply

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